Is The United States In The 2022 World Cup The History of Riddell Football Helmets – Protecting Your Noggin Since 1939

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The History of Riddell Football Helmets – Protecting Your Noggin Since 1939

Back in 1929, John Tate Riddell started his company with a vision of providing better sports equipment to athletes. And such an idea has been very beneficial, not only for JT Riddell but for the players as well, because from this concept of his came out the main manufacturer of football headgear in the country.

Removable cleat — the history of Riddell football helmets all started with a removable cleat. The said design was prepared by Riddell back when he was still the Athletic Director and at the same time the head of the football coaching staff for a certain high school in Evanston, Illinois. The year was 1922 when the head coach saw the need to develop the current leather boots for his team. With the arrival of the rainy season, such a condition dictates the need to change cleats and install a longer mud cleat to adjust with that variable. This process takes a lot of time, not to mention the fact that the shoemaker responsible for such a task was also employed by a university ergo who was unable to finish all the shoes by game time. The invention of open removable cleats was welcomed and ignited such a series of innovations that led to the foundation for the history of Riddell football helmets.

Ten years after forming the company, Riddell pioneered the fisted plastic headgear. This development caught the attention of the government because it will surely benefit the brave men in the Second World War. This is one of the best points in the history of Riddell football helmets.

With protection as the primary goal, it’s hard to believe that helmets, rather than pads, were the last to be accepted in pro football. The former is not even mandatory in football—that is until 1939 when the NFL mandated that players wear such protective headgear. Before the dawn of plastic helmets, there was leather. The players may be protected from concussion but not the heat—air can barely circulate inside.

Evolution is inevitable; the same is true in the history of Riddell football helmets. RT-2 was the first helmet designed by the company and sold to the public. The said helmet model was produced in 1946, a year after JT Riddell’s death. RT-2 was a three piece shell using Tenite II with cotton web suspension for the head and neck. Said suspension introduces a pocket of air between the head and the shell of the helmet. Although Riddell was unable to actually see the evolution and expansion of his company, he will always live on in every noggin he has protected, whether it is associated with an amateur or professional football player.

RT-2 was followed by RK-4. The latter is similar in shape to RT-2, although its shell material is different. RK-4 was produced using a chemical called Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene made by US Rubber. The cotton webbing that was present in the RT-2 was replaced by a combo of cotton and nylon. Both models featured the regular 3-link, 6-point suspension.

The history of Riddell football helmets includes the TK-5 and PAC-44 models. Both shared the same shell composition as that of the RK-4. The difference depends on the inner cushion. TK-5 was originally padded with cotton. However, it was changed to the inside of RK-4, which was made of cotton and nylon. As for the PAC-44, the same was tagged and aimed at the youth. It featured an internal airbag crafted out of vinyl.

From these forerunners, the company has moved forward along with the game. With ‘firsts’ like the web suspension, interior air cushion and self contained inflation head gear to name a few, it’s very hard to picture the sports gear scene without Riddell.

This is the story of Riddell football helmets…so far. With inventive minds constantly forming new ideas, it’s easy to say that another touchdown is within reach.

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